Jimmy Savile has been quoted as grooming those around him – but its too easy an explanation, given the male cultures of public bodies in the 60s,70s,80s, and 90s it was not difficult for him to do so – The smirk on Michael Grade’s face when he described the culture in the BBC when Top of the Pops was recorded was easy to see – women were ‘fair game’ and girls were given access to studios as a ‘treat’ only to be abused by Savile and others.
Last night’s Panaroma revealed that the detached complacency of senior management continues – what other explanation is there for Newsnight’s editor Peter Rippon not asking to see the tapes of the interviews with one of Savile’s first victims in the Jersey children’s home – where was his journalistic curiosity? what is the point of journalistic independence if it is not based on a thirst to find out what really happened. Clearly, the Newsnight producer Meirion Jones was more interested in exploring what had taken place because he had been alerted to Savile’s activities when he saw Savile take girls, of his own age, out for the day. The frustration of the reporters and police was evident – so why were the managers so complacent? The answer lies in continuing gendered, work cultures where women’s (even less girls) experience is not recognised or valued and where they are silenced. There is no evidence because the male-culture hamper expression of the evidence. Catch 22.
There is surprisingly a quote by Kipling that is pertinent ‘A woman’s hunch is worth much more than a man’s certainty’. If the hunch / experience is reframed into inappropriate certainties – ” that celebrities such as Jimmy Savile who fund children’s charities could not be so despicable” Savile didn’t need a spin-doctor the nature of the establishment culture was such that no-one could believe anything that challenged their world. A denial of women’s experience often underpins establishment thinking – and the lack of interest in people who are marginal or poor continues. How many managers ever talk to cleaners?
It is unlikely, a new Task Force or Commission will get to the bottom of the BBC’s complacency, if it does not unravel the impact of gendered attitudes to girls. There are alternatives!
In 1990s Di Parkin and myself invented gender or equality auditing to unpack why women were held back in the police, the fire services and local government. This was a process where we had in depth discussions with men and women about what they thought about each other, themselves and their work. What the audits revealed was how stereoptypes and assumptions determine how people treat each other at work – what women said at the time was they were rarely listened to – and that if they were to succeed they should be silent and not voice anything that would identify them as ‘difficult’. Although, work cultures have changed dramatically. It is still the case that there is a complacency about how gendered cultures impact on women’s lives and opportunities. This is as true in universities as in the BBC and banking.
In the BBC the new Director General does not appear to understand that by merely not seeing the tapes he can abdicate responsibility, any serious leader would have explored the truth, read the interviews and watched the tapes. How could they not have known that an exposure on Savile was a major news story – if they didn’t they shouldn’t be editing Newsnight.
I’m glad after 4 weeks of Jimmy Savile to be going to the Feminista Rally in Westminster tomorrow